A Modest Proposal

I had always thought that it was a sacred canon of our profession that the classroom requires certain and very specific rules of engagement from us as teachers. I would never, for example, respond to libertarians in my classroom the way I respond to some libertarians on Twitter. That some people are so quick to believe that how someone acts on Twitter—or Facebook or the comments section of a blog—inevitably bleeds into how she acts in the classroom suggests that the problem lies less with Salaita and his defenders than with his critics, who seem to have a rather more precarious and shrunken sense of what it is that we do when we teach. Assuming of course that these critics are being sincere when they raise concerns about Salaita’s teaching. But since Salaita’s critics are so convinced that how someone acts outside the classroom is a good measure of how they will act inside the classroom, I suggest we investigate how every professor with college-age children treats her children at home in order to assess how she will treat her students in class.


  1. s. wallerstein August 24, 2014 at 11:53 am | #

    How about investigating how every professor treats college-age members of the working class, repair-people, supermarket workers, fast-food workers, low-ranking members of the university staff, etc.?

  2. Susan Davis August 24, 2014 at 11:56 am | #

    Well, I have a 26 yr old and a 21 yr old (college senior). What would you like to know? About the only thing that bleeds over is my impatience with smart phones.

    • Rafaela August 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm | #

      Oooh this could get interesting – over 2 decades to consider!

      Have you ever respond to a child’s question with “Because I said so”? I hope you can understand how disrespectful this is to differing viewpoints on issues ranging from childhood bedtimes to nutrition requirements. This impatience could easily translate to intolerance in the classroom. Have you ever picked up a screaming toddler and put them in time out? That could be indicative that you would use violence in the classroom to silence opposing viewpoints. Perhaps even more worrisome is the fact that isolation and confinement are known torture techniques. The university cannot take the risk that you could be part of a terrorist organization. And let’s go back to your own example of smart phones: impatience and disparagement of technology is by definition disrespectful to the viewpoint that technology is an asset to the learning process.

      Do you have tenure? If you work at UIUC, the chancellor now has ample grounds to fire you based upon your reign of tyranny upon your own children! Please note, that as in the Salaita case, your own children’s viewpoints on your parenting are irrelevant and will not be considered. Salaita has a long teaching record with only excellent ratings by his students, yet that did not stop the chancellor from preemptively firing him for imaginary future infractions.

  3. joel in Oakland August 24, 2014 at 12:33 pm | #

    Assuming good faith argument (which is harder and harder to do these days) then I think one has to conclude significant Projection is in the dynamic.

  4. Roquentin August 24, 2014 at 3:15 pm | #

    I still maintain that this is really a secondary or even tertiary battle in the much larger conflict of the public vs the private sphere. Twitter and social media in general has taken what once was part of the private sphere (tawdry, watercooler/behind closed doors conversation) and brought it into the public to some degree. Right now it’s a no-mans-land where no one is sure which set of etiquette rules are applicable. The classroom is clearly the public sphere and the something said verbally off the record to a few friends isn’t. Twitter has made worlds collide and wires cross. Facebook did first. I was in college still when it started. I remember the terror when employers and parents started paying attention and finding pictures of everyone partying and hitting bongs, as well as more or less saying what they damn well pleased. Those days are so long gone now they almost don’t even seem real.

  5. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant August 25, 2014 at 10:27 am | #

    August 21, 2014 at 9:35 am

    • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant August 25, 2014 at 10:38 am | #

      I was typing my entry when a stray finger hit that Post Comment button in error. Anyway, what I wanted to say was that I had hinted at the very issue that Corey explores here in an entry that I posted in the comments section on August 21 for Corey’s post that was released on August 14 (“Over 1500 Scholars to University of Illinois: We Will Not Engage With You!” [August 14])

      As an objective observer of my own blatherings, I recommend you’ze all should check it out. Hey, I said it first (frantically waving my arms begging for your attention)!!

  6. Joan September 13, 2014 at 10:04 am | #

    Heidegger was also known for being friendly, VERY friendly, to his Jewish students in the classroom but like Salaita, he condemned world Jewish organizations for the dehumanization of modern life in his free time. Heidegger used publishable black notebooks and Salaita used published, public tweets. Neither apologized for the content of his statements but both had desires to move up the echelons of higher education. And both have excellent student evaluations of their courses. Heidegger even had Jewish students stinging his praises.

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